Sunday, November 5, 2017

Year 1: Week 18

Here is Gemma, age 6, at a friend's birthday party.





My hat's (and tiara's) off to the mom who hosted this party. She put together dragon, pirate, and fairy dress up gear in a "cave" and a "fairy house," and let the guests loose with scavenger hunt bags. They hunted for skeleton keys, dragons' eyes, and pixie dust, and after they'd found their treasures, they continued to play make believe. As party favors, the guests got to take home their costumes. Gemma has since worn her costume to Trader Joe's, and her fairy skirt to ballet.

Here is Gemma at Temescal Canyon, stringing  line, from which to hang watercolor leaves.





The Draw 1-2-3 lesson I assigned Gemma this week was an Egyptian princess. She decided, she said, to draw the princess with curly hair.

We finished reading Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Our fairy tale this week was about Prince Ahmed and the Fairy Paribanou (from Blue Fairy Book).

We finished Lamb's The Tempest.

In history, we read A Laconic Answer, as well as a chapter in On the Shores of the Great Sea about Ancient Greece, and a chapter in Hillyer's volume about Sculpture about Ancient Greece.

We took another look at Van Gogh's Bedroom. I had never paid attention to the way the unfamiliar colors make us pay more attention to the familiar objects, or the way the right side of the picture is higher than the left side, the way the mirror in the upper left corner is the lightest part of the painting, or the way none of the objects have shadows and all of the objects are outlined.

There were other things - sol-fa, foreign language songs, piano, poetry, cursive, Burgess Seashore Book, Bible stories, Christmas pageant songs, painting an amaryllis bulb, etc.

And there was this, which was constructed while listening to Tchaikovsky...

Check out the rabbit ears on top. Handicrafts - check.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Year 1: Week 17


This "week" has lasted two weeks.  

The reason? Report cards. My school district adopted a new report card system this year, a very complicated system, which required me to spend 16 hours inputting data. It also meant that Gemma spent a lot of time reading independently, and that I spent a lot of time feeling guilty for ignoring my child.

It also meant that our "handicrafts" were pumpkin carving, pumpkin decorating, and cooking.









I know that pumpkin carving and decorating are not sloyd or knitting, but being able to use a knife and a hammer help develop fine motor skills (like other handicrafts), and are both important life skills. I know, I know. Handicrafts and life skills are not synonymous. The purpose of handicrafts is to produce something that is not just useful, but both useful and beautiful. Carved pumpkins aren't useful, but I have seen pumpkins which elevated pumpkin carving to an art form.

Gemma graduated from Fish to Barracuda, which means that, in the spring, she will be in the "big" pool. 

She drew Eleanor of Aquitaine...

In history, my husband read her Some Greek Colonies, which included the story of the Philaeni (fil-ee-nee). I had never heard the legend of how Carthage and Cyrene determined where their border would be, and how the Carthaginian brothers involved were buried alive at the border. 

Gemma didn't want to include the Philaeni being buried alive in her timeline book. She chose to include 1)Polyclitus' Discus Thrower (from our Art History reading), 2)Van Gogh, and 3)Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata. It was fun to see Gemma realize, by looking at her timeline book, that Van Gogh and Beethoven were alive during the same century. 

In math, we completed Life of Fred: Liver chapter 2. This was one of our recent problems:
If Fred's pulse had been 160 beats/minute and had slowed to 90, how much was the decrease?

When I'm teaching her how to approach word problems, I always ask her what numbers are in the problem. Then I ask her what we need to do with those numbers; what process do we need to use? This problem used the word "decrease," so I asked her what, seeing that Fred's pulse had "slowed" down, and seeing that his pulse went from 160 to 90, did she think "decrease" meant we should do with those numbers. She answered "subtract." She completed the problem.

Additionally (math pun - get it?), I am assigning her pages in Mathematical Reasoning Level E, which is the 4th grade book. If we were doing Fred more often than once per week, I wouldn't do this. I'm doing it because it gives her practice with skills she knows (like the steps in long division, or the steps in the multiplication of two 2-digit numbers), and she enjoys the way math problems are like puzzles. 

Gemma went to CC, jiujitsu, and dance. We also started Christmas pageant rehearsal, which means learning lots of new songs. Coincidentally, our Bible passage this week was Luke 2:1-20.

She read several Aesop's Fables independently (because I put the book in her bookshelf) and narrated them just because I asked her what she read about.

She read her Old Testament passage, psalm, and parable. (We have yet to commit to a poem for recitation this term, though we've read lots of poems from Nature in Verse.)

We listened to our hymn of the term - All Creatures of Our God and King.

Hymn Study... The way I understand Charlotte Mason believed it should be done was that children should learn to recite the verses, one hymn per term. The way AO is scheduled, a different hymn is learned every month, but families can study them the way they choose. Some people do one hymn per month, but choose hymns they sing in church. I chose to learn one hymn we sing in church per term. One hymn per term seemed doable, while a hymn per month seemed ambitious and daunting. The way things actually work out, we do learn more than one hymn per term. For example, Gemma has been practicing playing two hymns on the piano - Jesus Lover of My Soul and A Mighty Fortress is Our God - to play at an upcoming social after church.

For picture study, she chose Van Gogh's The Bedroom.

There were other readings. She sang her foreign language songs, and she practiced cursive. As always, there are several other things we did, things I'm forgetting at the moment, but I'm going to let Week 17 be, and move forward into Week 18...

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Year 1: Week 15

The big adventure this week was driving up to Central California to visit family and go to the Big Fresno Fair. Here are some of the highlights of our field trip...


Gemma posed as the Sun-Maid Raisin girl in the Agriculture Pavilion.

Here are Gemma and Grandpa viewing the prize-winning citrus...

...and getting attacked by a giant grasshopper in the Bug-ology exhibit.
The fair's theme was "The Land of Ahhhs," so the pumpkin carver carved all of the characters from The Wizard of Oz, plus a house on top of a pair of legs, complete with tornado.

In Ag-Ventureland, Gemma practiced milking a cow...

...and driving a tractor.

In the Gems and Minerals Pavilion, there was a Touch Station...

...and one of my favorite fair features - the rock feast.
Gemma got to practice her television weathercaster skills in front of a green screen...









She played in a box full of corn...

...and watched a marionette performance of The Wizard of Oz.

The week leading up to our field trip was packed with...

History: We read about King Leonidas (Lay-o-NEE-thas) in The Brave 300, and King Ahasuerus (in On the Shores of the Great Sea).

Literature: We read 2 fairy tales, both of which we'd read before but Gemma hadn't narrated - Snow White and Rose Red, and Toads and Diamonds. Our fable was The Man and the Goose, in which the man had a goose that laid golden eggs, but the man was so greedy that he cut the goose open, killing the goose, and putting an end to the golden eggs. We also read 3 pages of Lamb's The Tempest, and poetry from Nature in Verse.

Natural History: We read "Seedboxes We Eat As Vegetables," which introduced the idea that some flowers have dustbags and some flowers have seedboxes. (Some flowers are male and some are female.) In the past, we dissected lilies (complete flowers), which, if you're reading Plant Life in Field and Garden, would be a great activity to complement the chapters about dustbags and seedboxes in this book. In the Burgess Seashore Book, we read about oyster drills.

Geography: We read Charlotte Mason's Elementary Geography - "The Sunshine" (poem) - and The World By the Fireside (The Green Corn Festival).

We listened to Tchaikovsky (more Swan Lake & Pathetique, and the Tchaikovsky Classics for Kids episode about ballet). Gemma spent the week reviewing songs in her Level D piano book. She also reviewed her hymn and 2 foreign language songs. We reviewed this terms Bible recitation passages, and read the story of Daniel in the Lion's Den. Gemma worked on her cursive, and strengthened skills in Duolingo.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Year 1: Week 16

This is just some of what we did this week...

Gemma drew a princess holding a frog...

We continued to read poetry from the autumn section of Nature in Verse. In geography, we continue to read about North America and Native Americans. One of the chapters was about buffalo, and one of the chapters was about a topic that is part of few 1st grade curricula: the practice of senicide. Gemma finished Life of Fred: Kidneys chapter 18. We continued to read The Father Brown Reader. Gemma went to CC, jiujitsu, and swim, but missed dance due to a misplaced leotard. 

She did some cursive, practiced piano, did Duolingo. My husband took on some more of the teaching duties, as my workload this year - because of a new, mandated language arts curriculum; a new report card system; and for the first time under the current ELD requirements, I have the 4th grade English Learner cluster  - is heavier. My husband read Gemma 3 pages of Lamb's The Tempest, the Burgess Seashore Book ch 16, Why the Sea is Salt from The Blue Fairy Book, and a chapter from Plant Life in Field and Garden. In her free time, Gemma did several pages in Mathematical Reasoning Level E. We listened to some Tchaikovsky (Swan Lake & Pathetique) and looked at Van Gogh's painting Cafe Terrace at Night. We read Psalm 23, and her recitation passages. She worked a little on her sewing doll. In history, one of the topics we read about was Thermopylae.

My favorite Gemma quote of the week (in reference to Father Brown): "He's always fumbling with his umbrella and parcels."

Friday, October 6, 2017

Year 1: Week 14


Gemma's week included samba-ing in the street.

This is a castle Gemma drew, using Freddie Levin's 1-2-3 Draw: Princesses.

We read several poems from Nature in Verse, 3 pages of Lamb's The Tempest, The Story of Pretty Goldilocks from The Blue Fairy Book, the story of The Fiery Furnace from the Bible, 2 pages in Nature Connection about why leaves fall off trees, recitation passages (Psalm 100, parable, Baby Moses), wrote 4 words in cursive (lettuce, autumn, etc.), added 3 people to timeline book, and did the "strengthen skills" feature on Duolingo.

The fable Gemma chose was The Mouse and the Weasel. In it, a mouse chews a hole in a corn basket, and once in the basket, eats so much corn, and gets so fat, that he can't squeeze back through the hole to get out. Gemma's narration included advice to the mouse: "He should have taken the corn to his burrow, instead of eating it in the basket."

The fairy tale was perfect for prediction. Instead of having Gemma narrate - gasp! Call the Charlotte Mason police! - I had her predict what would happen next, because, if she had been paying attention, she should have been able to, at several points in the story, predict what would happen next. For example, Charming rescues a carp, and the carp says she will repay Charming. When Charming comes upon another animal, the listener should be able to predict that Charming will help this animal, too, and that this animal will also gratefully promise to repay Charming. When Charming comes upon a third animal, the listener should easily predict Charming will rescue the third animal, and that this animal, too, will promise to repay Charming. When Charming is asked by Princess Goldilocks to do the impossible task of getting a ring from the bottom of a river, the listener should immediately be able to predict that the first animal, the carp, will get the ring for Charming. At this point, the listener might predict that Princess Goldilocks will ask Charming to perform two more impossible tasks, because there are still two animals who need to repay Charming. Otherwise, when Princess Goldilocks asks Charming to go on a second adventure, the listener should predict that the second animal will come to Charming's aid. And so on and so on.

One of the thoughts that struck me while reading this story to Gemma is how necessary predictable stories like this are for developing the ability to predict. It seems obvious, but it is something disregarded by public education.

It also struck me that the king cruelly imprisons Charming, because he is fearful and jealous. This story clearly shows that this is an injustice, that kings shouldn't rule this way, and that government should be just.

This week, I prioritized the things we didn't get around to last week. I had Gemma choose a hymn, and she chose one we often sing in church: All Creatures of Our God and King.

She also did a nature watercolor of her lettuce plant, which she noticed is producing a flower!



I made handicrafts a priority this week, and we pulled out the doll sewing kit Gemma started. She sewed and stuffed the body and head; I attached the arms for her. She did this while Alouette, a couple of other French songs, and some of Tchaikovsky's Pathetique played. We also listened to some of Swan Lake, and revisited Van Gogh's The Potato Eaters.

Math: Life of Fred: Kidneys chapter 16

History: Cinncinatus, The Battle of Marathon, and The Perfect Building (the Parthenon)

Free Reads: The Father Brown Reader

PE: Dance, jiujitsu, swim



Gemma passed her swim test (swimming the length of the pool), and is now able to swim in the rec area of the pool without me being in the water with her. That meant she was able to swim before her lesson and after, spending not just 30 minutes in the pool, but an hour and 30 minutes.

Geography: a couple of games of Jax Sequence States & Capitals, The World By the Fireside (The Baby's Cradle & The Medicine Bag)

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Year 1: Week 13


This is a princess Gemma drew this week, using Freddie Levin's 1-2-3 Draw: Princesses.

(This "week" lasted 9 days.)

For timeline, Gemma wanted to add Peter & Cornelius, Goliath, and Jonah to her timeline book.

For nature Study, we read "Grass - So Much More than a Lawn," from Nature Connection. This book was a gift from a friend, and I'm looking forward to reading more from it. In the Burgess Seashore Book, we read about starfish, or sea stars, and we also watched a couple of short YouTube videos of sea stars moving and eating. Finally, we read a chapter about how flowers make seeds, in Plant Life in Field and Garden.

For math, we did Life of Fred: Kidneys chapter 15.

We finished A Child's Garden of Verses, and started Nature in Verse. It's divided into seasons, so we are enjoying poems about autumn.

In history, we read Horatius at the Bridge (from Fifty Famous Stories Retold),"A Cloud in the East" about King Darius, and Hillyer's A Child's History of Art (ch 5 of Painting - Jars and Jugs). For Jars and Jugs, we looked up the pronunciation of different styles of Greek vases.

Our tale this week was Beauty and the Beast from The Blue Fairy Book, and our fable was The Dog in the Manger.

I'm doing Lamb's Shakespeare differently this term. Instead of reading a full tale in one week, I'm going to read about 3 pages per week, stretching one tale over 6 weeks. We're starting with The Tempest, which Gemma is familiar with from both the Usborne Illustrated Shakespeare book and the Animated Shakespeare movies.

For geography, we read chapter 7 of CM's Elementary Geography, about the planets orbiting the sun. Gemma was particularly interested in the idea that Saturn takes longer than earth to orbit the sun, because Saturn is farther than earth from the sun.

Instead of a narration with that book, I had Gemma answer the questions at the end of the chapter. I assume that since CM wrote that book, she wanted children to be able to answer those questions. I'm curious about this point because it's the opposite of what CMers deem "right," regarding how children should process  text.

At Classical Conversations, Gemma is learning the states and capitals, so I finally ordered a game that has been on my wish list: Jax Sequence States & Capitals. We played as a family, and my husband won. While we were playing, Gemma's eyes got wide and she said, "Hey! What a consequence!" (She meant "coincidence," a word she had just learned an hour earlier.) "Augusta, Maine; Concord, New Hampshire? That's just like CC!" I gaped. "Wow, how did that happen?" I said, feigning surprise. I thoroughly enjoyed that she had no idea I bought the game on purpose to help her learn the states and capitals.

We also read a chapter from The World By the Fireside by Mary Kirby, a book listed on the PNEU programmes. While this book has lots of wonderful passages, it also has some passages that need editing for various reasons. We came to one of those passages this week. The chapter was called "The Red Man." One of the things I want Gemma to gain an understanding of, over time, is that a reader can read text without agreeing with the author. I also want her to understand that there is something to be learned by doing this. There is value in this.

For example, last term, we read about the Esquimaux, or Eskimo, and I explained to her that this was a name that other people gave them, and not a name they gave themselves. I told her that the name they call themselves is Inuit. We did not discuss that not all "Eskimos" are Inuit, however, later, we will be able to have that conversation.

Back to this week's chapter. The book is written from an English perspective, so Kirby writes about "we" people living in England. I change this by adding or omitting words. The book is also old. We don't call Native Americans "red men" anymore. But! I do think it's important to explain that people from England did refer to themselves as white and to Native Americans as red. They did see them as different, and superior - but I don't want to get into that idea too much yet. We most definitely will in the future.

(Coincidentally, one of our current free reads is Little House on the Prairie, and we recently read the chapter in which Native Americans go into Laura's house...)

Now, for the edits... This particular passage discusses scalping. Now, first of all, Gemma is sensitive. If I bring up scalping, she's going to ask questions. And I answer her questions. These are questions I don't want to answer right now. I don't want her thinking about how this was done, or why this was done, or that all Native Americans did this, or that no other people did this.

Another discussion we had was about medicine men. The book says medicine men "pretended" to scare away evil. I explained that the medicine men didn't think they were pretending; the English author didn't understand that the medicine men believed what they were doing. In her narration, Gemma didn't use the word "lied" - she used "pretended" - but I could tell that she equated pretended to lied. She thought that if medicine men lied about chasing away evil, they were also lying about the medicinal value of the herbs they prescribed. I explained that many of the herbs a medicine man prescribed really did have medicinal value. 

Lastly, the chapter said that Native Americans didn't like "knowledge and improvements," so I edited that, too. I said the Native Americans had a different kind of knowledge than the English, and that the English had certain technology that the Native Americans didn't have.

Gemma earned a yellow stripe in jiujitsu. Her coach told the students to write 6 sentences about being prepared for jiujitsu, so she was very motivated to write one sentence per day for six days. Her sentences were short, but she chose what she wanted to say and wrote her sentences in cursive.

A game of Duck Duck Goose...

The French song I chose for this term is Alouette, because it is a song she will learn to play on the piano in the not-so-distant future. She's finishing up the Alfred Prep Level D book, and Alouette is one of the early songs in the Level E book. (In piano, she's working on The Baseball Game, which is the second to last song in her current book.)

The Spanish song Gemma chose is Des Colores. We watched Children of the Open Air's lesson on Ring Around the Rosie, and listened to half of Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake. Gemma, surprisingly, chose Van Gogh's Potato Eaters for picture study. For recitation, I chose Psalm 100, and The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Builders, and we read the story of Naaman.

I did not chose an Old Testament passage for recitation yet; I didn't teach a handicrafts lesson this week; I haven't chosen a hymn yet (but we did sing a couple); and I didn't have Gemma do a nature journal entry.

She did spend time in the forest.

They made fairy (or dragon) houses out of clay and twigs, and other objects.


Finally, here are pictures I took at swimming, and at dance.




Saturday, September 16, 2017

Year 1: Term 1: Exam Week

This is the first time I've done an "Exam Week" with Gemma, and I really didn't enjoy it. 

It didn't reveal anything that I didn't already know. Because Gemma does all of her school-work with me, I know what she knows. I also know that her narrations need a lot of improvement, and I'm confident that as she gets older, and as she reads and talks about what she's read more, her narrations will improve.

I suppose that if I needed to prove to someone else - like a charter school - that my child was learning, these exams could help do that. But we're not enrolled in a charter. I don't have to keep a portfolio. I blog about our homeschooling experiences for me (because I'm so busy with work that I wouldn't remember what Gemma and I did last week without some sort of record to jog my memory), and to keep in touch with family and friends, and because I've discovered so many great books, field trips, games, etc. by reading about other homeschoolers' experiences.

We tried two different things. We tried Gemma answering her exam questions using speech to text in google docs, which took longer than it needed because Gemma kept rereading what she had said, and which produced some errors that I will, someday, find humorous. (Did you know there were "bondsmen and zombies" in The Good Samaritan?) We also tried me typing her narrations, which was fine, but tedious for me, and produced shorter narrations, I think because she didn't get the same satisfaction from just talking as she did from seeing her words appear on the screen with speech to text. We didn't try videotaping her exams.

I want to see some value in Exam Week, if not for me, than maybe for her. What does a child gain by showing, in this way, what they've retained from a term? Or is it that they develop an understanding that they are expected to retain these ideas?

I do think that I need a Reflection Week, or a Grace Week, to evaluate what went well over the term, what worked, what was easy, and what needs to be prioritized so it doesn't get left out.

For example, piano was easy. Gemma played more than her required 15 minutes per day. Duolingo was easy, and while Gemma now knows some words in Spanish and French, and is interested in learning more, I am wondering if I should add something here, like scheduling Telefrancais and Salsa episodes, or setting a goal of a certain number of new (themed) words per month.

On the other hand, maybe it would be nice to look back, years from now, at Gemma's exam answers. But I don't think we need two questions in each subject for that purpose. Maybe next time, we will have an Exam Day, with only two questions total, followed by a decadent dessert, like fancy chocolate cupcakes from Sweet Lady Jane's. Yes, that changes everything.